Music industry conference season will soon be upon us, or as some might see it, networking season. After all, we’ve all heard the classic “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”. The idea of networking can make even the most confident people a little nervous! But don’t stress, we’ve pulled some pearls of networking wisdom from a few of our Music Industry Inside Out mentors, and we’re here to help. Networking in six steps? How easy is that!
1. Get amongst it!
This seems really obvious, because it is. If you want to grow your network in the music industry, you have to go out there and get involved in it. As wise Music Industry Inside Out mentor and award-winning singer-songwriter Husky Gawenda puts it, “If people have met you and spoken to you they are more likely to listen to your music, vs just sending your music out as a name on an envelope or email”. Growing your network doesn’t have to be restricted to formal events and conferences. By attending gigs, volunteering at events, and getting involved in the industry in whatever way that suits you, you’re surrounding yourself with like-minded people, who will get to know you as a part of that creative scene.
2. Learn to pitch yourself: 30 seconds or less
When you are approaching someone with the intention to connect with them on a professional level, knowing what you have to offer is important. At networking-specific events like conferences, industry workers are often approached by a lot of people, so it’s important to make your time count. CEO of QMusic Joel Edmondson offers advice here, saying; “Networking is not just about ‘here I am’, it’s more about convincing people what you can do. It’s a value exchange and offering value is important.”
So take some time to work out exactly what it is you want to achieve through connecting with people, and what you have to offer them. Do you have some really great music you want someone to play or listen to? Do you want to work somewhere and think you have some skills to offer? Do you have a show or event coming up that you think people will want to see? Whatever your skills or talents, condense it to a quick and easy pitch, so people can see maximum value in even the shortest of conversations.
Convincing someone that you have something of value to offer is half the battle, and a good elevator pitch will do just that. If you’re not confident in approaching people, ask a mutual contact to make an introduction. Having a personal connection can really help overcome those nerves when you’re meeting new people.
3. Industry workers and successful musicians are people too: Be nice
When looking to connect with industry workers/leaders in the biz, it can be easy to see them as just an industry professional. But it’s important to remember that industry workers are people too, often quite shy themselves, and you should treat them the way you want to be treated. It helps if you think of the process as ‘making new friends’ rather than connecting simply to get something out of someone.
BIGSOUND Programmer and Artist manager Maggie Collins says “When selling something to someone, remember to be personable, ask them about their day or week, bands they like and other “regular stuff”. Don’t be pushy, remember that at the end of the day we’re all just people, with lives outside of work.”
When connecting with people in the industry, remember that it is actually a vibrant, supportive community. People could help you professionally, but could also become great personal friends and connections. In the words of musician Jeremy Neale; “People want to work with good and real people. If you’re fake they’ll tell from a while away. People don’t want to deal with that. Meet people to meet good people. Your personality and good nature will bring you more opportunities than forcing your music on to someone.”
If you are at a networking event, and chatting with someone, it’s also important to read the situation and know when it’s time to move on. Nicholas Jones, Founder of Tone Deaf says “Don’t linger, read the situation and be aware of when you are overstaying your welcome. Be respectful of people’s time. How you interact is how people will remember you, so first impressions are important”.
What it comes down to folks, is just being nice! If you’re approaching someone new, particularly someone well-known, be prepared that they might not have time to talk to you, and don’t try to get their attention by interrupting a conversation.
It’s important to recognise when an exchange has come to an end, and not to pester someone for more of their time. If you have connected with someone, that’s great, you don’t have to say everything then and there, you can always follow up later.
4. Do your research
Another obvious one, but if you’re going to an event to connect with people, do your research on who might be there. If you have a purpose behind attending the event, work out who might be able to help you, and pitch to that person. Damien Costin, Founder of 123 Agency says “Get a sense of what people do, and then approach people you want to work with and offer something, if you do your research, you’ll start off in the best position.”
If you know what someone does before you connect with them, it also helps with striking up a conversation, and people appreciate that you know your stuff!
Try not to limit yourself to the people who you might already know or have on a wishlist. Just because you don’t know who they are, doesn’t mean that someone won’t provide invaluable industry wisdom. Plus, they are more likely open to a chat than the bigwigs who will be swamped upon entering the room.
5. Follow up: maintain the connection
So you beat the nerves, went out there and low and behold, you made some connections! The next crucial step is to follow up. Again, remember to be polite, but be direct. Music industry workers are some of the busiest people, and get thousands of emails, make sure yours is worth their time. Many of our industry mentors stress the importance of knowing what you want to say, and saying it succinctly as possible.
Once you make that connection, remember to maintain it personally as well as professionally. When reaching out to somebody after a period of time, remember to ask them how things are going. Maybe ask them out for coffee to catch up and discuss something instead of just sending an email full of demands. Mel Dine of The Push says “Maintain a professional attitude, support one another, the music scene is a community first and foremost. Check in regularly on a personal level to maintain good relationships. The ones that come through are the ones that support people as a community rather than treating them just as industry contacts.”
6. Be open to new opportunities, and always take the meeting
Maybe you’ve been getting a little involved, people are starting to get to know you, and someone new reaches out to connect. When you’re starting out, even if you don’t see an immediate value in the exchange, take that meeting!
Singer, songwriter, DJ, and producer KLP says “Always take the meeting. You never know what could happen, if its not for right now, that person you met 3 years ago might move jobs, things will align, and something might happen”.
We’re all busy people, and sometimes it can be difficult to find time, but you should always be open to new connections and the opportunities that they can offer. In an industry like this, a generous mindset can go a long way. Plus, we can always do with extra friends, right?
Ready to get out there and build a network more reliable than Telstra’s NBN? We hope so.